Sometimes our modern world seems to be bringing to life what life was depicted in the cartoon "The Jetsons" - the show that took place in the future with these devices and inventions that never seemed possible (or at least not to me). The other night there was a commercial for this thing called the Roomba (which sounds like a dance) which is this thing that looks like a giant hockey puck that simply drives around on your carpets all day long vacuuming on its own. We have skype on computers (and "Face-time" on some phones) which allows people to talk to each other face to face, video screen to video screen with seeming relative ease and somewhat inexpensive...And in the not too distant future, there will be self-driving cars and trucks. Vehicles that will be for the most part autonomous. This last week the first self-driving semi-truck hit the road in Nevada. It boasts: It will take control only on the highway, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles and staying in its lane. It won’t pass slower vehicles on its own. If the truck encounters a situation it can’t confidently handle, like heavy snow that covers lane lines, it will alert the human that it’s time for him to take over, via beeps and icons in the dashboard. If the driver doesn’t respond within about five seconds, the truck will slow down gradually, then stop. All things that George Jetson, Jane, his wife and company would be all too familiar with - but things that to us has been fascinating and amazing. It’s transforming how we live. In a lot of instances, the motivation has been to make things more efficient, safer. Just think if (or rather when) they perfect the self-driving cars and trucks - the number of car accidents due to drunk driving, distracted driving, people falling asleep - could theoretically disappear.
And we’ve almost grown accustomed to this type of living- and in some ways expect that type of efficiency, and convenience in every walk of life... I laugh because I sound like an old curmudgeon talking to our college students during this final exam time about how much easier finals are today compared to when I last took a final exam 16 years ago. Thanks to the wide-availability of laptaps and wifi and professors wanting the convenience as well - a lot of them don’t have to sit in a room for two hours per class and write in a blue book things that they learned, memorized (or crammed for that matter) into their heads. In one case, a professor has given them a take home exam which is open note, open book which even the students confess "you have to work to fail this course" (Geez, where was this professor for Freshmen Spanish????)
But even things that we imagined were givens - things that we always imagined needed to be done face to face, person to person are starting to be bypassed in the name of efficiency and convenience by the "rise of the machines": more and more doctors are chatting with patients virtually on a video screen, asking their symptoms and prescribing something without seeing them at all. The number of people talking on the phone has decreased in favor of texting -which while both can convey the same useful necessary information we’re looking for is somewhat cold and impersonal.
The reality is we’re not going to stop the march forward in these inventions and the progress they bring, the challenge is for us to recognize not everything in life is convenient, efficient. We hear in the Gospel Jesus giving his definition of Love: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends concluding with "I command you: love on another".
That’s not something that is fulfilled in sending an emoticon of a heart to someone; or ordering something online and having something delivered to a person that you "love." It’s not even fulfilled when we see a commercial for people who are suffering, like St. Jude’s Childrens Hospital or those devastated by the earthquakes in Nepal or Tornados in Oklahoma and we pull out our credit cards and make a donation. Don’t get me wrong, those are good things and steps - but the love that Jesus commands, demands of us costs us more than all of these things.
Love cost us, our convenience, our preferences, our desires. Love asks us to focus not on ourselves - but to forget ourselves - in light of that which is loved. That’s why its beautiful that this Gospel should fall on Mother’s Day. This profoundly beautiful vocation that women are called to, when responded to correctly, beautifully demonstrates that definition of love quite profoundly. Our biological Mom’s, from the moments of our conceptions, literally gave their very lives to us... nourishing us, enabling us to grow and form - physically, emotionally, spiritually - in their very wombs...at tremendous cost to them personally — ask any Mom about things like morning sickness, the sleepless nights, the pain of delivering a child. Mom’s give beautiful witness to Jesus’ command of laying down one’s life for another... and in most cases, that’s a lifelong gift of themselves to their children. This is even demonstrated in those who are Mothers in a non-biological relationship - Aunt’s, Godmothers, Grandmothers... Religious figures like many religious sisters, the epitome of which we find in Mother Teresa - we see how that "maternal instinct" to selflessly nurture, care for others is lived out in many beautiful ways that this National Holiday asks us to pause, reflect, honor and give thanks for.
It’s true that some have trouble celebrating this day because they may have had difficult experiences with their mothers. Mothers are human beings who can make wrong choices just like any one of us, and there are consequences for these actions. We have high expectations for mothers, and when they are not met, conflict occurs. Sometimes expectations are built on the "perfect" families people see on television, or from their friends that have "perfect" mothers, and other areas in our lives. When your experience is the opposite of what you believe should be, it is very painful and can often leave a scar.
It doesn't need to stay that way.
Laying down our life in these instances can be found in the difficult act of Forgiveness. Forgiveness is an act of compassion and grace, much like what Jesus gives to us. If we don't forgive, we put ourselves in a prison of anger, hate and bitterness. By forgiving, (or if you’re not ready to consider that right now, maybe just starting by praying for the desire to forgive) we begin to free ourselves from this prison. We are no longer are controlled by all the emotions of not forgiving. We begin to experience the profound freedom to love as Jesus modeled for us on the cross. Just as we didn’t deserve His forgiveness, He gave it to us anyways. So if you’re struggling with your relationship with your Mom, struggling with forgiveness, that can be your challenge to allow Jesus into that pain... Allow the Lord to help you.... who promises to always be with you, because you are not an in inconvenience to Him.
That happens when we love one another selfllessly. That happens when we offer that gift lavishly especially to those most in need... not counting the cost, not expecting anything in return - simply doing this, simply living this way because that is the example He has set for us.